Earlier this month I took my niece and her boyfriend, who were visiting us from England, to Florida and specifically at their request to see “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Studios in Orlando.
They are the “Harry Potter” generation, born in the mid-1990s and raised on the books and movies of this amazing world created by J.K. Rowling. It was a dream come true for them not only to visit the United States, but also to see Universal Studios’ amazing recreation of this imaginary but realistic world of wizards and witches.
The numbers behind the “Harry Potter” brand are absolutely incredible. According to a Time Magazine profile of author J.K. Rowling in 2013, there are 450 million copies of “Harry Potter” books in print in 73 different languages. The films have grossed $7.7 billion against a total combined budget of $1.15 billion. Rowling’s net worth is estimated at almost a billion dollars, while the brand is estimated to be worth $15 billion.
According to www.wizardingworldharrypotter.com, last summer “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley” opened at Universal Studios to add to “Hogsmeade” at The Islands of Adventure, which opened in 2010. The Hogwarts Express transports visitors between the two theme parks and the quality of the reproductions are high. The new area includes shops with windows full of magical surprises, movie-themed food and beverages, a towering dragon that breathes fire and a ride called “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts,” which looked too scary for me to try.
After taking the Hogwarts Express through a recreation of London’s Kings Cross Station (which was way too clean and courteous to be real!), we could enjoy tours of Hogwarts castle, shopping in Hogsmeade and dining at the Three Broomsticks. My guests did everything there including every ride — some more than once. They were chosen by a wand at Ollivanders, sampled butter beer (which was far too sweet for my taste but better than the pumpkin juice) and ate “British” food.
While I spent quite a bit of time waiting for them to purchase a huge amount of merchandise and go on the scary rides (while I guarded the aforementioned merchandise), I reflected anew on the symbiotic relationship between the land of my birth and my homeland today and will share with you in no particular order some of my thoughts during this trip:
• So many times, British creativity and ingenuity is taken to the next level by Americans and their wonderful can-do attitude. So to take the example of Rowling who struck gold with her series of “Harry Potter” books, it took the USA to recreate this world and the experience. According to my young guests, the tour of the movie sets and modest museum and shops in England were not a patch on the Florida experience.
• Americans do not like to stand in line (or queue, as the British say). They will tolerate it for their children at theme parks, but almost always with some grumbling. Queuing really does not sit well with the American mind-set.
• Some themes of the books explore the darker side of humanity, which makes them appeal to adults as well as children. There have been many a school thesis (really!) and newspaper article about how good triumphing over evil in the books symbolizes the victory of the Allies over Nazi Germany in 1945 (just to take one example).
• It occurs to me that the American way, which allows all to be born equal and to work and strive to achieve the American dream, is reflected in the fictional world of Harry Potter. Young Harry works hard, takes risks and fights like a superhero to achieve good outcomes. Very American, despite his accent!
I will leave you with this quote from Professor Albus Dumbledore in “The Goblet of Fire”: “Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
God bless America!
Email Francis at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.lesleyfrancispr.com.